The 144th annual rath yatra of Lord Jagannath began in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city on Monday morning, but it was devoid of the usual festive fervour and crowds due to the curfew imposed on its route to bar people from taking part in it in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of the usual cavalcade of around 100 trucks, decked up elephants, akhadas and singing troupes, this year’s procession consisted of only three chariots, pulled by nearly 100 youths from the Khalasi community, and four to five other vehicles.
To prevent people from gathering on roads for a glimpse of the deities, a curfew has been imposed on the entire 19-km route of the procession from early morning till afternoon, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told reporters.
The journey of the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra began from the 400-year-old Jagannath temple in Jamalpur area here around 7 am, after Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel performed ‘Pahind Vidhi’- a symbolic ritual of cleaning the way for the ‘raths’ (chariots).
According to the city police, around 23,000 armed personnel, including nine companies of the Central Armed Police Forces, have been deployed along the route to prevent any unwarranted situation, as the procession passes through some communally sensitive areas also.
Although the rath yatra would cover the entire 19-km route, the procession this time would be a shorter affair in terms of duration as the authorities have planned to conclude it in four to five hours as against the usual time of around 12 hours.